Big Rapids, Mich. - Defending NCAA Midwest Regional Champion Ferris State University has been picked to finish near the top of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) as the Bulldogs were chosen second in the 2014 GLIAC North Division Preseason Coaches Poll announced Thursday.
The official announcement was made in conjunction with the launch of the GLIAC Media Day Central website, which includes a video preview, team prognosis, preseason poll, infographics and more.
Grand Valley State took the top honors in the preseason North Division poll with 55 points and seven of the eight possible first-place votes. The Lakers posted a 31-4 record and an impressive 17-1 mark in the GLIAC a year ago before falling to Ferris State in the regional championship match, falling to Ferris State in five sets. The Bulldogs captured the other
first-place vote and garnered 43 points to finish second in the poll. FSU's magical season a year ago came to an end when the Bulldogs fell in the Elite Eight to national powerhouse BYU-Hawaii.
Northern Michigan was voted third with 35 points and Saginaw Valley State was a close fourth with 31 points. Rounding out the top-five in the North Division was Wayne State with 22 points. Meanwhile, Northwood came in at sixth with 19 points while Michigan Tech totaled 18 points. Lake Superior State closed out the North voting with eight points.
Ashland University is predicted to win the South Division in 2014 after receiving six first-place votes and 48 points. The Eagles return 2013's GLIAC Freshman of the Year and four All-GLIAC selections. Hillsdale captured two first-place votes and 43 total points to finish second in the poll. Findlay tallied 38 points followed by Ohio Dominican in fourth with 29 points. Malone finished close behind the Panthers with 28 points while Tiffin picked up 17 points to finish sixth in the voting with Walsh seventh with 16 points. Lake Erie concluded the voting with eight points.
Ferris State will enter the 2014 campaign with high hopes again after winning the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional Championship to advance to the Elite Eight a year ago under veteran head coach Tia Brandel-Wilhelm. Five starters and 10 letterwinners return for the Bulldogs, including a pair of All-GLIAC performers in talented hitters Courtney Rehm and Alexis Huntey.
Sophomore Stephanie Sikorski also returns at the setter position after an impressive freshman campaign with senior hitter Caroline Heitzman and junior Megan Vander Meer also back in the Bulldog lineup. Ferris State, which placed tied for second in the GLIAC North a year ago before its postseason run, will be seeking its 19th NCAA Tournament appearance this year. A talented incoming freshman class will help offset the loss of a pair of seniors from last year, which includes the GLIAC Libero of the Year in Brandie Merren.
Ferris State closed a memorable 2013 campaign with a 25-9 overall record after nearly pulling off a major win over eventual national runner-up BYU-Hawaii in their first appearance deep on the national stage since the late 1980's. FSU, which made its 18th all-time NCAA Tournament appearance last fall, claimed a regional crown to reach the Elite Eight and national quarterfinals for only the third time in school history and first since 1989.
Last year marked Ferris State's first regional championship since previously winning two back in 1987 and 1989. The Bulldogs reached at least the regional semifinals for the third year in a row and have now made the NCAA Tournament nine times under Brandel-Wilhelm, who led FSU to the Elite Eight for the first time in her tenure after notching her 500th career victory in an exciting 3-2 comeback win over archrival Grand Valley State in the Midwest Regional title match in Allendale.
The Bulldogs also placed tied for second last season in the GLIAC with a 15-3 overall record, reached the conference tournament for the 16th consecutive year and posted 20 wins or more for the 12th time in 18 seasons under Brandel-Wilhelm's direction.
Ferris State is slated to open the fall 2014 season by taking part in the highly-competitive University of Tampa Invitational from Sept. 4-6 in Tampa, Fla.